What Every Nonprofit Needs to Know About Scaling Impact
What Every Nonprofit Needs to Know About Scaling Impactback

The social sector is at a tipping point, a place where great changes in process must take place so great social change can happen:

  • The economy shifted.
  • Funding sources have realigned.
  • New funding options – private/public partnerships – are evolving.
  • The world itself – water resources, illness, poverty – has changed. Social ills are so massive that massive projects are needed to address them.
  • Technology now allows us to solve old problems with new techniques and to reach across borders, across cultures, and across sectors to find solutions and partners.

Key to addressing ever larger social ills is scaling the social impact of nonprofits that have shown measurable positive impact in the lives of people.

What does “scaling social impact” mean? Does it mean adding staff, increasing the number of people served, creating a model that can be replicated across the state?

That easily describes nonprofits that expand the number of people served and the number of sites at which services are offered but the short answer isn’t always the best answer. The longer, better answer is provided by CASE at Duke University:

“Scaling social impact” is the process of increasing the impact a social-purpose organization produces to better match the magnitude of the social need or problem it seeks to address.  Scaling social impact can include, but is not limited to, the following categories of action:

> expanding the quantity and improving the quality of the services provided directly by your organization;

> enabling other organizations to provide a higher quantity and quality of direct services;

> changing the political, cultural, or economic environment to reduce the need or problem;

> attracting more or improving the productivity of resources devoted to addressing the need or problem.

That’s a lot more complicated than adding more classes or serving more meals. And it is definitely not just about making the organization bigger. The definition of scaling nonprofits has to include the concept of increased positive impact, of doing more good for more people.

On Tuesday, June 14, the Social Impact Exchange will host a Symposium on Scaling Impact. The afternoon symposium will provide opportunities for nonprofit organizations, funders, professional service providers and academics to: 

  • gain insight from organizations in the process of scaling
  • develop knowledge and skills for business plan development
  • acquire critical leadership skills necessary to grow an organization, and
  • network with your peers.

To help you get ready for the symposium and to give you an overview of what scaling is, Ventureneer has developed a free, downloadable primer on scaling for nonprofits, Taking Social Innovation to Scale. It will give you an overview of the issues and obstacles around scaling as well as a treasure-trove of resources to help you evaluate and plan your nonprofit’s future growth, such as:

  • Is your nonprofit ready to scale?
  • Do you know how to find the answer to that question?
  • What do funders want to see when you ask them to fund your growth?
  • Are there new ways to grow?
  • Is scaling in your best interest and the best interest of your clients?

Difficult questions but you need to ask them. With social problems growing, we need to grow social good.

What does scaling social impact mean to you? Have you tried? What are the opportunities and obstacles you see?